Thay Pagoda Festival takes place from 5th day to 7th day of the 3rd lunar month each year. During the festival, many monks wearing frocks , holding flowers sticks, chanting intercessions and say masses in the wooden bell’s sounds from everywhere come here to join the ceremony. Worshipping Buddha and altar ceremony – an oratorio with religious nature – is done with the cooperation of the national instruments.
The Thay pagoda was built in the time of King Ly Nhan Tong (1072-1127). It marked the religious life of Zen Master Tu Dao Hanh ( according to the genealogy, the bonze’s surname was Tu and first name was Lo, son of Tu Vinh mandarin and his mother was Tang Thi Loan from An Lang, Vinh Thuan ( Lang village, Tu Liem, Ha Noi today) .
According to customary, to be reincarnated in the Ly kings, the very hour of birth of Duong Hoan (son of Sung Hien Hau), Zen monk Tu Dao Hanh left his body to incarnate in Duong Hoan in Thanh Hoa cave. Later because he had no son, King Ly Nhan Tong handed down his career to Duong Hoan ( Than Tong King later) (1128-1138). This cave is located halfway the rock mountain, its entrance is tottery. According to legend, there are Tu Dao Hanh’s bones inside the cave.
The first ceremony is bathing statue ceremony, held prior to 7th lunar March. This ceremony is attended by monks , Buddhist monks and numerous people . In the smoke of incense , pure water is brought to the altar . The Abbot and the maids take a clean red towel and dip it in water and carefully clean the statue. They pray to Buddha while doing that. All the actions take place very meticulously , carefully and dignifiedly . Buddhist nuns and people around put their hands together and pray solemnly.
Then Buddha bathing water is wet everywhere as Buddha’s rain, giving people good things. The bath towels will be cut and given to children as amulets against evils.
Then, the praying Buddha ceremony happens. This is the biggest ,most important and most impressive ceremony in Thay Pagoda Festival . This ritual is an oratorio with the religious nature with the coordination of the instruments . The main offerings are offered to the altar with hundreds of different gifts of visitors attending with a variety in color , settling,… This makes the atmosphere sacred and holy.
Then, the monks in the frocks , holding a flower sticks perform circle dance steps with the combination of fast and slow steps to show the human endless effort to achieve good. In that scene, the monks walk and dance under the instrument and bell sounds.
Thay Pagoda Festival not only has religious rituals but there are also water puppetry with lion dance , dragon dance scenes, grinding rice , pounding rice , bullfighting scenes which are put into truly, lively and attractively by artists.